For years, Miami’s most famous swingers club used glossy photos of gorgeous women clad in corsets, bikinis and lingerie to advertise its partner-swapping, sex-fueled parties.
The problem: At least 32 of the women featured on Miami Velvet’s fliers, web pages and social-media accounts were professional models who had nothing to do with the club.
For swiping the images without permission, a jury late Monday decided that Miami Velvet must pay $892,500 to be split among the South Florida and Los Angeles models. The amount was well below the $5.3 million sought by the legal team from the law firm Akerman, which represented the models at the trial in Miami federal court.
Jurors deliberated over two hours.
“I think the jury’s decision was fair and I think they took into account that these women were entitled to say yes or no to the job, and ultimately, they wouldn’t have said yes,” said the plaintiff’s lead lawyer, Naim Surgeon.
Among the models awarded damages: Joanna Krupa, who appeared on “Dancing with the Stars” and “The Real Housewives of Miami” ($65,000); Jaime Edmondson Longoria, a former Boca Raton cop and Miami Dolphins cheerleader ($32,500); and Cora Skinner, who appeared on the game show “Deal or no Deal” ($32,500).
Miami Velvet is one of a handful of South Florida members-only night clubs for swingers, couples who share partners and can have group sex inside. Jason Silvera, a Miami Velvet manager, called it “one of the best nightclubs in Miami.”
“The only difference is you can be intimate there,” he testified on Monday.
But that’s what angered the models.
The women filed suit in December 2015, alleging their images had been used to “class up” the club that features “unhealthy and unsanitary” activities. The ads also appeared alongside explicit images of group sex on Miami Velvet’s website, leading people to believe that the models endorsed or even participated themselves in the raunchy acts.
“In 2019, we respect a woman’s right to say yes or no: consent matters and should matter to all of us,” Surgeon said during Monday’s closing arguments. “As decent people, we understand that’s how we want society to operate: consent requires permission first.”
He added: “These aren’t just pretty women. They’re entrepreneurs, mothers, businesswomen.”
Three of the models had their names used in the advertisements.
In 2017, U.S. Judge Jose Martinez ruled in favor of the women, saying the club was liable for false advertising. This month’s trial in Miami federal court was held so that jurors could decide how much in damages the women deserved.
Among those on the hook for liability is Joy Dorfman, listed as manager of My Three Yorkies LLC, the company that runs Miami Velvet. Dorfman, who once worked on Wall Street, testified she had no idea she was the manager and was only listed as an employee to receive health insurance.
Her husband is former hedge-fund manager and ex-professional poker player Randy Dorfman, who bought Miami Velvet in 2010.
The two said they had nothing to do with the images and that they were posted by a third party contracted to run social media for Miami Velvet.
The club’s lawyer, Luke Lirot, admitted it was a “no brainer” that his clients were responsible for misusing the images, but said the models were asking for way too much money. Lirot declined to comment after Monday’s verdict.